In 1992, Marvel Comics gave readers a look at a possible future version of the Marvel Universe with their 2099 line of comics. The imprint's storylines took place in a dark dystopian future world where new incarnations of classic Marvel characters like Spider-Man, The X-Men, and the Punisher did their best to bring justice to a world ruled by corrupt mega-corporations. Due to flagging sales the once popular line came to an end in 1999, but the characters and concepts of the line have been revisited several times since then in a number of Marvel titles.
This April, the world of 2099 lives again when “Timestorm 2009/2099,” a four issue mini-series by writer Brian Reed and artist Eric Battle, launches. But as Dylan once said, “The times, they are a-changin'.” CBR News spoke with Reed about the series, which will see characters from the present day Marvel U come face to face with new, but distinctly familiar, versions of characters from the 2099 era.
When Reed accepted the “Timestorm” assignment, he sat down and spent an entire week researching the history of the 2099 universe. “I read everything from the first issue of ‘Spider-Man 2099’ to the final issue of the line where it went a thousand years into the future. I came back to my editor Bill Rosemann and said, ‘What this needs is the ‘New Universal’ [the mini-series where writer Warren Ellis re-introduced readers to characters and ideas from Marvel’s “New Universe”] treatment.’ It’s a really solid concept that I don’t think has aged well enough for us to just pull it off the shelf and put it back the way it was,” Reed told CBR News. “I got instant approval from him and Tom Brevoort to do just that, and what I’ve really done is study what Warren Ellis did with ‘New Universal’ and what Brian Bendis did with ‘Ultimate Spider-Man.’ There were good lessons there and I wanted to apply them to ‘2099.’
Those lessons lead to Reed updating the world of 2099 for “Timestorm” instead of radically changing it. “Corporations are still a big part of everything. Privacy is 'now,' too,” the writer explained. “Right now, we voluntarily give up so much of our privacy in return for entertainment. We tell everybody what we’re doing on Twitter. We have a Facebook account that lists all our favorite things. There’s all this stuff that, 20 years ago, nobody knew about us and now we’re shouting it into the ether and letting everybody know about it. We’re going to explore what happens if that keeps growing.
“Back in the early 90’s the writers were concerned about 'what happens if Corporations keep getting bigger?' Corporations got bigger; we lost that fight, and so what I’m looking at is the next step. How I saw that working was that, the corporations took the identities of the heroes and made them their mascots. So come 2099, characters like Spider-Man and Iron Man aren’t heroes. They’re these corporate mascots that tell you what to do, and they’re almost seen as oppressors,” Reed continued. “So when Spider-Man 2099 puts on his mask and steps out there saying he’s Spider-Man, it’s this really big show of defiance; it’s this moment of saying, ‘No! I’m taking this thing you perverted and making it good again.”
This new status quo for the 2099 world means that some of its characters may be somewhat different than their original incarnations. “I’ll calm everyone down right now by saying, in this series, Spider-Man 2099 wears the same costume [Laughs]. There was some debate as to whether or not it should change, but we were like, ‘No. That’s the one thing everybody loved about the character,'” Reed stated. “Beyond that, though, we’ve been trying to find the new versions of these characters; we’re looking for exciting ways to deal with them now.
“We’ve still got Cerebra from the X-Men. She’s younger now, and nobody knows what she is, including herself. So we’re going back a little to the first X-Men story, with her learning what a mutant is and what she’s become,” Reed said. “I’ve made Spider-Man younger and I’ve given him the chance to have that ‘I’m going to conquer the world ideology’ you see in many teens. That’s so we can throw it right back in his face and show him that, 'No, you’re not," [Laughs] and give him something to fight. We've also got a new Human Torch. In the original 2099 books, the Fantastic Four was supposed to be the FF from the present, only living in 2099. That was until we found out that they were really clones that the Watcher had made, but our new Human Torch is something a little more interesting.”
“Timestorm” also features an appearance by a new version of Punisher 2099. “He's actually what gets the story started. In the first four pages of the first issue, we see him come back to our time, and he's hunting Spider-Man. Before page four, he's shot Spider-Man,” Reed explained. “This leads into what we call the Timestorm. Over the next few issues we'll reveal what it is and what that did to Spidey.”
In addition to the Peter Parker version of Spider-Man, the contemporary incarnations of Wolverine and Luke Cage will also play large roles in “Timestorm.” Readers will experience much of the 2099 world through the eyes of those three characters. “One of my favorite moments is when the present day Spider-Man, who was in the 2099 world once before, returns and realizes things aren't how they used to be,” Reed remarked. “Then he sees a poster of himself promoting this horrible product in the future, and goes, 'What is this thing they're using my image for?'”
The core “Timestorm” cast from the 2099 era includes the previously mentioned Cerebra, Spider-Man, and Human Torch, as well as a revived Ghost Rider and not one, but many Hulks. The villain of “Timestorm” also hails from 2099. “If you're familiar with the 2099 books then the villain will be familiar to you. If you're not, then the name Tyler Stone means nothing to you,” Reed said. “But that's part of what this series is about; reintroducing that character and explaining to new readers who he is and making him a good villain.”
The tone of “Timestorm” will be comparable to that of another series where time travel is a prevalent element. “It’s got a ‘Doctor Who’ vibe to it, because I like to have fun instead of just being grim and gritty with you,” Reed said. “So it’s this great adventure set in the middle of this world where things are not so great.”
Reed feels his collaborator on “Timestorm,” artist Eric Battle, is doing a wonderful job reinterpreting and reimagining the characters and concepts of the 2099 world. “He’s brought a lot to the design aspect of the series. I just describe what I’m thinking about doing with a character, I don’t even describe what they look like, and he comes back with things like his sketch of Cerebra which just blew me away,” Reed stated. “He sent me that sketch and I instantly understood things like what she looked like when she used her powers and how she behaved in public. I knew all of those things about her as soon as I saw his sketch. So it’s been great. I send a paragraph to him and Bill and we bounce ideas back and forth. Then Eric sends us a sketch of this character and we’re all like, ‘Yes that’s it!’”
“Timestorm” has proved to be an enjoyable assignment for Reed, something the writer instinctively knew when he was offered the project. “One of the ways I end up saying yes to projects is if, when they ask, ‘Would you be interested?’ and my first thought is that I have no idea what the hell I would do, I say yes [Laughs],” Reed explained. “I find the challenge of figuring that out fun. That’s when the good stuff happens. When I respond to a project with, ‘Oh I know exactly what I’d do!’ is when I go, ‘No. I don’t want to write that.’”
Reed hopes readers respond to “Timestorm 2009/2099” because he’d love to write more stories set in the world of 2099. “I would love to do a regular ‘Spider-Man 2099’ book. It’s a fun world I’ve got going here,” the writer remarked. “I’ve got a lot of characters and ideas to play around with and the more I write of this series the more I’m like, ‘I just want to stay here. This is a lot of fun.’”